published Friday, July 16th, 2010

Smith accused of leaving GOP short on cash

NASHVILLE — While 3rd Congressional District hopeful Robin Smith decries “out of control” spending at the federal level, some Republicans say a review indicates she left the party with a money shortfall when she stepped down as state GOP chairman.

A Republican State Executive Committee member said he examined the review and stated it showed the state Republican Party as of May 31, 2009 — Mrs. Smith’s last official day at the party — had a bank overdraft of $19,090 on its unrestricted funds.

That was confirmed by two other Republicans. All spoke on condition their names not be used.

Smith campaign spokesman Mark Winslow on Thursday accused the campaign of rival 3rd District GOP candidate Chuck Fleischmann of peddling the story based on a “false allegation.”

He said via e-mail that Mrs. Smith “is widely regarded as the most effective and successful chairman in Tennessee Republican Party history. Since leaving the chairmanship, she has run a positive, issues-oriented campaign focusing on the important challenges facing the nation.”

Mr. Winslow, who served as Mrs. Smith’s chief of staff when she was at the party, said “we’ve heard the rumors that Fleischmann and (adviser Chip) Saltsman have been shopping a story around ... based on a false allegation that Robin mismanaged the finances of the party while chairman.”

A former state Republican Party chairman himself, Mr. Saltsman said Thursday that “facts are facts in this case.”

“There’s an audit that obviously exists, because every party chairman after their tenure has an audit of their party finances,” he said. “The Smith campaign can dance around this all they want, but to be completely transparent and honest to the voters they ought to release the audit so we all know the facts.”

Tennessee Republican Party Chris Devaney, who succeeded Mrs. Smith in July 2009, declined to discuss the matter.

“The policy of the state party is to remain neutral in a contested primary,” he said. “Anything less would be unfair to all of the candidates in the race. It would also be inappropriate for me to comment on internal financial matters of the party.”

He did say, however, that Mrs. Smith had “significant electorial success as chairman of the (state party) in 2008 — success we’re going to build on this year.”

While Mrs. Smith objected to assertions that the party was running a deficit during her term, publicly filed statements during the latter months of her tenure show the state GOP with low cash balances and high amounts of obligations in both the party’s state and federal accounts.

The GOP’s Tennessee Legislative Campaign Committee fund, which reports to the state, began its Jan. 1-June 30, 2009, period with a negative balance of $12,318.10, according to filings with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance. It received $123,311.72 in receipts and spent $102,230.47.

That left it with a positive balance of $8,763.15, but the party also reported obligations still outstanding of $60,797.53 as of June 30, the month after Mrs. Smith departed from the state party.

At the federal level, the Tennessee Republican Party reported to the Federal Election Commission in May 2009 that the party began the month with $2,397 in cash on hand. The GOP had $50,389.92 in total receipts, some of which was shifted over from the state account. The party spent $56,191.57 in its federal account and had cash on hand of $3,404.01 on May 31.

In his e-mail, Smith spokesman Mr. Winslow cited a recently Federal Election Commission audit of the state party’s finances during the 2005-06 election cycle, prior to Mrs. Smith coming aboard as chairman in August 2007.

The election commission said the state GOP understated receipts by $117,371 and disbursements by $77,948. Mr. Winslow said in his e-mail that the FEC’s action “blows apart their story for the lie it is.”

Mrs. Smith dealt with some of the FEC’s preliminary findings by refunding $77,000 in money that was deposited incorrectly in the federal account from the 2005-06 period, he said. She did it “without taking out loans,” he said.

According to Republicans, most of the refunded federal contributions legally found their way back to the party’s state accounts, where they were supposed to have been deposited.

The bulk of that was a $50,000 contribution from the Republican Governors Association that originally was made to the state GOP’s federal account. The money was returned on Feb. 3, 2009. The governors association then sent another $50,000 check to the party’s Tennessee committee on Feb. 10, 2009, records show.

GOP Chairman Devaney, who was the state party’s executive director during the 2005-06 election cycle, repeatedly declined to discuss the matter this week.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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gm1220 said...

The message is simple . . . Don't trust Robin!

July 16, 2010 at 8:47 a.m.
Redcountry2004 said...

So much for fiscal responsibility! I hear this is the tip on the iceberg.

July 16, 2010 at 9:23 a.m.
chadsherk said...

Glad this was released before the 3rd district made a huge mistake. I'm going Gobble. His funds management skills have been audited too, and shown to be top notch. Plus it never hurts to have a former Secret Service agent going to bat for those of us to want a congressman who is strong on national security.

July 16, 2010 at 9:44 a.m.
trob said...

Don't believe everything you hear. Fleischmann is a lawyer, which is the last thing we need more of in Washington.

July 16, 2010 at 11:49 a.m.
MountainJoe said...

We don't need any of the above. Van Irion filed a class action suit in federal court against ObamaCare, while others merely spouted rhetoric and moved on. Van is the choice of citizens who want government to actually adhere to the limits set out by the Constitution.

July 16, 2010 at 12:04 p.m.
trob said...

Again, we don't need more lawyers in Washington!

July 16, 2010 at 12:34 p.m.
MRP2100 said...

This is exactly why we need Fleischmann in Washington! Nobody has ever questioned his integrity.

July 16, 2010 at 12:47 p.m.
gm1220 said...

One thing we all agree on is we don't need Robin!! Vote anybody but Robin!

July 16, 2010 at 1:37 p.m.
mh86 said...

Yet another reason not to vote for Robin! At least Chuck seems to be a man with good morals and a believer in true conservative values. It is time to get rid of the crooks and turn Washington around. Chuck has my vote!

July 16, 2010 at 2:07 p.m.

Typical low-class political move: 'It's not my fault that I'm a crook... It's Chuck Fleischmann's fault.' Mr. Fleischmann has handled his campaign with integrity and promotes real conservative values as opposed to that CONservative Robin Smith. The GOP needs to wake up and put real conservatives in office as opposed to these phonies. Vote Fleischmann.

July 16, 2010 at 2:42 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

Van Irion is the only candidate that clearly spells out all of his positions and intent, consistently coming in strongly on the conservative side. Van is a ROCK SOLID Constitutional Conservative. Fleischmann seems to be a good guy but I don't think he has the resolve to stick to his guns if he was to get to Washington. Same goes with Smith, she is loose on some issues and will easily be sucked into the machine. Check out Van Irion, the Times Free Press is not giving him the attention he deserves. www.van4congress.org>

nurseforjustice said...

I agree with BigRidgePatriot. I know Chuck personally and he is a great guy and lawyer. But I feel that Van spells everything out on his agenda better than any of the conservatives. But I think anyone is better than Robin.

July 16, 2010 at 3:07 p.m.
MuddyCreek said...

Well, the story is par for the course--once a politician, always a politician. I still, for the life of me, cannot equate getting people elected to office to courageous public service. Can't believe the public has tolerated Robin to this point anyway. Chuck Fleischmann has always presented himself as a class act, but he, as well, brings little to the table when it comes to representing me at one of the most volatile periods of American history. Speaking of history, accordng to Van Irion, you would think the U.S. Contstitution outlines every conceivable issue including when to plant your beans. From what I am hearing, this Sheriff Gobble is the only guy in the race that has any track record of doing, well, anything that matters. I would like to think that still counts for something!

July 16, 2010 at 7:44 p.m.
Butchisan said...

I agree with MuddyCreek on one issue; 'track record of doing, well, anything that matters. I would like to think that still counts for something!' The only problem is he either doesn't know or didn't say that Art Rhodes worked on the last balanced federal budget! In the 90's as Chief of Staff for congressman Mike Parker (R) Miss. Art helped balance the budget. In my opinion that counts for something!

July 21, 2010 at 9:19 a.m.
gm1955 said...

It is a shame that candidates who are not wealthy or involved with mudslinging get ignored. What happened to being qualified? It is no wonder our country is in the mess it is in; voters are content to vote for the winner of the mud fight rather than actually make the effort to determine who is most qualified! I guess Art Rhodes is being ignored because he refuses to play politics! And people say they want statesmen and not politicians? Politicians are the only ones getting any attention! Shame on you!

July 21, 2010 at 9:41 a.m.
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